Trends in Portrait Photography

In the December ’17 issue of Shutterbug magazine, that’s currently on newsstands, I write about trends I foresee for photography in the coming year. I thought I would take this opportunity to look at a subset of these trends, specifically as it relates to portraiture.

This isn’t based on any scientific or statistical analysis but a general overview of the style of portraits that I see on social media. And it may be that these trends are much narrower because it only looks at social media while thousand of other kinds of images are being made by portrait photographers who are too busy shooting and making money to spend time on social media. Who knows? But here are three (maybe four) trends I see and here’s my take on them,

Big Heads. All the cool kids are shoot-ing really close to the subject filling the frame with their faces. Back in the 1980’s this was a trend in PPA competition and was called “the big head” look. Now it’s back for everybody too young to notice that trend in the eighties. This is a trend that I’m ambivalent about; it too will pass but I think its subject dependent. Sometime it works and sometimes it doesn’t and it isn’t something you can force on all subjects. Heck, if you shoot loose and have a high megapixel camera there’s always Photoshop’s Cropping too.

Ennui: is a “feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.” This style features mostly young women or models who look like they are being held hostage by the photographer and could care less about being photographed. The old catch phrase is that “the lights are on but nobody’s home” but the cause could be as simple a something I’ve written about here before: You have to talk to your subjects, otherwise…

Underexposed images: This is more of a technical detail and maybe I’m sensitive to it, but some photographers seem to think that the best way to show a dark moody film noir image is to underexpose the portrait. Nope. When you underexpose you make it darker but you also make it flatter and dull. Working with shadows also mean you need to have highlight too.

Maybe another trend is freckles: Every time I log onto Instagram (follow me at @joefarace) I see many, many portraits of women with freckles, often having the freckles accented with software techniques to make them more noticeable. I didn’t even know there were that many women who had freckles. Of the thousands of women I’ve photographed only a handful had freckles. But if you—or a friend has freckles and would like me to photograph you, I’ll do it in as most natural way possible, so they are a part of you not the subject of the photograph..

If you’re interested in shooting portraits and how I use cameras, lenses and lighting in my in-home studio, please pick up a copy of Studio Lighting Anywhere” which is available from with, as I write this, new non Prime copies selling for $17.50 (plus shipping,) cheaper than the Prime price.

Author: Joe Farace

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